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'When the Spirits Dance Mambo' with Paquito D'Rivera @ NJPAC, Newark

Some artists are so personable that the moment you hear them, you love them. One such artist is Paquito D'Rivera, a fountain of melody, cascading and life-affirming with a wicked sense of humor. Even his boleros are full of happiness.

Paquito D'Rivera

It's no surprise that Paquito (born in 1948) was a prodigy. His father, Tito Rivera, withdrew from his own saxophone career in Havana, Cuba, to manage his son's classical career. From Tito's record collection, Paquito developed a love of jazz. Then the rise of the Castro government changed the family's life.

In his new autobiography, My Sax Life, Paquito says that in the 1970s, he and his bandmates were desperate to perform outside Cuba. They used the word "fasten" (as in fasten your seat belts) as code for "travel." Since Paquito left Cuba in 1980, his dreams of performing worldwide have more than come true, and now he takes every opportunity to present the irresistible music of his island.

On this JazzSet, Paquito has put together a show entitled "When the Spirits Dance Mambo," with authentic Cuban artists onstage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. First, we hear Las Hermanas Marquez, Trini and Nerza, friends of Paquito's mother. Having performed at the Tropicana nightclub in Havana with the likes of Celia Cruz, the sisters came to New York in 1951. With a third sister, they sang and played at the Palladium on Broadway, and in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Their original guarachera music comes from the same era as the Buena Vista Social Club, and they are must-hear!

Detail from the cover of 'My Sax Life,' Paquito D'Rivera's autobiography

Generoso Jimenez, a/k/a "El Tojo," is the other guest artist from Cuba. The trombonist worked with the legendary vocalist Beny More in Havana. Paquito premieres his composition "Tojo" for full orchestra; then the remainder of the program features arrangements by Jimenez.

Guest Steve Turre raises a conch shell and opens the concert. The spirits dance mambo all the way home!


'When the Spirits Dance Mambo' with Paquito D'Rivera

By Las Hermanas Marquez

"A Toda Cuba le Gusta," Remberto Marquez
"Adios, Compay Gato," Fernandez Ortiz
"Con Medio Peso," Jose L. Arcay
"Esto Es Felicidad," Bobby Collazo

By and for Generoso Jimenez

"Tojo," Paquito D'Rivera (commissioned by Meet the Composer)
"Linda Melodia," Generoso Jimenezz
"Para Vigo Me Voy," Ernesto Lecuona
"Peanut Vendor," Moises Simon


Paquito DíRivera, clarinet and alto saxophone

Accompanying Las Hermanas:
David Oquendo, guitar
Alex Alvear, bass
Pernell Saturnino, percussion

The Orchestra:
Oriente Lopez, flute
Manuel Valera, alto
Oscar Feldman, tenor
Marshall McDonald, baritone

Leonardo Timor Jr., trumpet
Diego Urcola, trumpet
Guido Gonzalez, trumpet Conrad Herwig, trombone
Dana Leong, trombone

Hector Martignon, piano
Oscar Stagnaro, bass
Mark Walker, drums
Tutti Jimenez, drums and percussion
Pernell Saturnino, percussion
Rolando Morales, bongo and conga

Guest artist Steve Turre, seashells and trombone


The concert is part of the Alternate Routes festival at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center. Thanks to Leon Denmark and Baraka Sele.
Meet the Composer funded the new composition "Tojo."
Thanks to Brenda Feliciano.
Our crew is Producer/Director Josh Jackson, Technical Director Brian McCabe with Spencer Graves, Yujin Cha, and music mixer Duke Markos with location recording by Steve Remote of Aurasonic Limited.
Thanks to Adam Kushner.
Additional recording at KUNV Las Vegas by Ginger Bruner.
Becca Pulliam produces JazzSet with Executive Producer Thurston Briscoe III of Jazz 88, WBGO in Newark, New Jersey.

Copyright 2007 NPR